Today’s Medscape online reports that several Florida medical associations are suing the state government over a new gag law that prevents physicians from asking their patients if they own a gun. The physicians wish to have the ability to counsel patients about gun safety, based on the thousands of people (many of whom are children) who are killed or injured each year when picking up loaded guns.
Advocates of the gag rule, including the NRA, feel that asking such a question violates one’s right to privacy. But what is the physician-patient relationship anyway?? It is a voluntary affiliation, in which a medical advisor is hired to review one’s history and counsel people on their best health practices.
Doctors ask if patients smoke, if they exercise, what kinds of food they eat, and if they engage in risky sexual practices. They examine patients, order labs and then advise or prescribe treatment. Then it is up to the patient to determine if he or she wishes to follow that advice.
Imagine going to a financial advisor who is not allowed to ask if you have an 401K, even though he/she can hear about all of your other investments. Would you get the best advice for your money?
If people don’t want to tell someone that they own a gun, they can decline to answer, or they can answer untruthfully (as patients sometimes do about their health habits). But in my medical opinion, this level of paranoia is decidedly unhealthy for our nation.